Twenty years to the day after the death of local writer, Hanna Greally, community radio station RosFm broadcasted a new radio documentary about her legacy and her life in Roscommon. The programme aired for the first time on Wednesday, August 15th 2007 at 6pm. Hanna Greally (also known as Johanna or Joan Greally) was born in Athlone in 1925. At the age of nineteen she was admitted to St. Loman’s psychiatric hospital in Mullingar where she was detained, against her will, for almost 20 years. Despite several escape attempts and numerous letters to her relatives to claim her out, Hanna remained in St. Loman’s until 1962. She spent some time in rehabilitation and re-training in Coolamber House before working as a cook and housekeeper in Ireland and in England. In 1971 Hanna saw the publication in Ireland of ‘Bird’s Nest Soup’, her moving first-person account of life inside Ireland’s psychiatric hospitals in the 1940s and 1950s . In the early seventies she came to live in Fourmilehouse, Roscommon where she spent most of the remainder of her days after the ‘Big House’. She was a regular contributor to the Roscommon Champion writing letters, poems and other autobiographical pieces for the paper. Hanna Greally died on 15th August 1987 ‘Remembering Hanna Greally’ is a very personal programme based on Hanna’s own writing and on the accounts of some of her closest friends and neighbours in Roscommon. It explores her experience in hospital and her life afterwards as a member of the local community. The contributors to the programme include Finola Mc Crann, Eithne Quinn, Una Ní Chuinn, and Iris and Séan Allen (Fourmilehouse). Dr. Eilís Ward, formerly a journalist with The Roscommon Champion and now lecturing in politics in NUI, Galway also reflects on the value of Hanna’s legacy in understanding the stigmatisation of mental illness in Ireland. Bird’s Nest Soup was published twice, in 1971 and again in 1987. It’s now out of print but copies can be borrowed from Roscommon public library. Extracts from the book are used in the documentary with permission from Cork University Press. Programme producer Mary Owens points out ‘Hanna Greally suffered great injustice and indifference in her life but she never lost her voice and now twenty years later, a new generation can hear her story and appreciate her legacy’. ‘Remembering Hanna Greally’ was produced by Well Said Productions for Rosfm. It was made with the support of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland’s ‘Sound and Vision’ production funding scheme.
Spoken Word(interviews, reading, etc)
(c) 2007 RosFm
RosFm Radio, www.rosfm.ie
Hanna Greally, Finola Mc Crann, Eithne Quinn,
Una Ní Chuinn, Iris and Séan Allen
(Fourmilehouse). Dr. Eilís Ward